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  • Creating Bass Lines: Getting Your Mind Right

    Creating Bass Lines: Getting Your Mind Right

    Q: I’m struggling with the thought process behind coming up with bass lines. What advice would you give for ways to approach and think about constructing lines? A: This is another question that is ripe for comments, as everyone probably has something unique to them going through their minds when developing a bass line. To... »

  • Going Unnoticed: Our Role as Bassists (Or: The Not-So-Obvious Compliment)

    Going Unnoticed: Our Role as Bassists (Or: The Not-So-Obvious Compliment)

    Photo by philippe leroyer There’s an old saying in the musical world that goes a little like this: “I didn’t even notice the bass until it wasn’t there!” While this may seem a bit unfair – as if all of the other instruments receive the listening attention they deserve while we stand in the back... »

  • Playing a Gig with No Prep Time: A Guide for Bass Players

    Playing a Gig with No Prep Time: A Guide for Bass Players

    Q: I will soon be filling in on a gig with no rehearsals or charts. I’m a little freaked out. They said we’d get a few minutes during sound check to run through a tune or two, but how can I expect to play well when I can’t really prepare? A: I feel your pain,... »

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  • Progressive Scales: A Bass Player’s Guide to Learning Scales and Improving Reading Ability

    Progressive Scales: A Bass Player’s Guide to Learning Scales and Improving Reading Ability

    I’ve written in the past about the importance of scale work to solidify instrumental technique (see the Lowdown archives for those columns and more). If we are new to learning a particular scale it is probably wise to start by playing from root to root (e.g. C-C in C major) until we are comfortable. This... »

  • What Makes a Great Bassist? Part 1: Playing For The Song

    What Makes a Great Bassist? Part 1: Playing For The Song

    It’s easy to get wrapped up in the “hows” of bass playing: scales, chords, arpeggios, slapping, tapping, harmonics… Maybe you’re working on getting that one awesome lick just right so you can use it someday. With so much information to digest, sometimes it’s best to take a step back and remember what it is we’re... »

  • Getting Started with the Nashville Number System

    Getting Started with the Nashville Number System

    Q: I am classically trained, so I’m used to Roman numerals to designate chords (I, IV, V7, etc.). I have become aware of lead sheets using numbers 1, 4, 5’ 1/5). Are you aware of any music I could download that uses this system? A: What you’re referring to is the Nashville Number system. The... »

  • Finding the Musical Treasures in Your Own Backyard

    Finding the Musical Treasures in Your Own Backyard

    A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to check out the Summer NAMM show in Nashville. Although it was great to walk around the showroom floor, check out all of the new gear, and run into some friends, the most exciting part of the show was the congregation of truly fantastic players. The NAMM... »

  • Getting Over Extended Range (and Other Musical) Ruts

    Getting Over Extended Range (and Other Musical) Ruts

    Q: I’ve been playing bass for many years, and started playing the 6-string bass only about six years ago. I’m currently stuck in a dormant sludge of un-creativity! Any thoughts on who offers a good 6-string finger exercise, scale patterns, a book or even a good video? I can’t seem to get out of the... »

  • Thumb Position Exercises for Bassists

    Thumb Position Exercises for Bassists

    “Thumb position” is a left hand technique in which the thumb is used on top of the board to press down the strings. In essence, we use it just as we use our other fingers. Although the technique can be used anywhere on the instrument, this technique is most often used at the midpoint of... »

  • Bass in an Acoustic Setting: Knowing How to Play Your Role

    Bass in an Acoustic Setting: Knowing How to Play Your Role

    Q: I think I have a good suggestion for an area you may have not covered: the role of a bassist in an acoustic setting. No drummer (maybe a Djembe), just acoustic guitar, bass and vocals. How do you keep it grooving, how do you fill the space, how do you make it sound good?... »